Earlier this week marked the 11th anniversary of 9-11.
Most of us who lived through the 9-11 attacks in New York or Washington can vividly remember not only the horror, but the confusion and bewilderment, of the morning hours of that day. The idea of America being under direct attack seemed almost unfathomable, even as the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a lonely field in Pennsylvania. The fact that there were those who so hated us and what we most loved – our freedoms, openness, commerce, opportunity, and democracy – that they would plan the killing of thousands –seemed as senseless and strange as it was sinister.
It may be far harder still to recognize that we ourselves may, in ways subtle, gradual, and almost unrecognizable, also be undermining the same freedoms attacked directly just over a decade ago. Trinity Forum’s founding Senior Fellow Os Guinness makes the provocative case in his new book A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future, that “The ultimate threat to the American public will be Americans. The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor.”
Guinness argues that the greatest challenge to nation-states is not in winning freedom, but sustaining it – which is becoming an increasingly urgent dilemma for the American experiment in ordered liberty. If, as he argues, “freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith, and faith requires freedom,” the challenges to both character formation and religious freedom are not mere skirmishes in a tired culture war, but have long-term geo-political consequences. Indeed, much of the current international economic crisis is due not to hostilities between European countries, but within them – perhaps most notably, a refusal on the part of one generation to curtail current benefits or entitlements even if it bankrupts those around them – which is as much a matter of character as of economics.
Next week, the Trinity Forum will host an Evening Conversation with Os Guinness at the National Press Club on the challenges to and sustainability of freedom. With a presidential election just a few weeks away, what should we do to encourage the form of public character that sustains freedom? Join us for what promises to be a fascinating and provocative conversation!
The Trinity Forum